to fix the defenses, which they now discover to be insufficient. We have foreigners here as quartermaster and engineer; none others. The people suffer from it.
The burden of this correspondence is to show the existence of violence and infidelity in the subordinate departments, and as a necessary corollary laxity among the heads of the department. Some of the letters are characterized by temper, and the Department hold its opinion suspended as to the justice of the complaints. In the letters before quoted it is said "no one will bring wood for fear his boat will be seized." This habit of seizing private property for the common uses of the Government is unquestionably a great grievance, and probably there have been cases in which officers have manifested but little consideration for the interests or feelings of the owner.
General Orders, No. 56, declare that-
Necessity alone can warrant the impressment of private property for public use; and whenever the requisite supplied can be obtained by the consent of the owners at fair rates and without hazardous delay the military authorities will abstain from the harsh proceeding of impressment.
There is no better evidence of a feeble and incompetent administration than is exhibited by a habitual resort to impressment as a source of supply. It is the duty of officers to employ forecast to provide material for the Army by the ordinary and usual methods of fair commerce. They are not to frustrate private enterprise in its efforts or in its fruits by a violent appropriation of its instruments to the public use. They are not allowed lazily to await the efforts of private energy and activity to collect for them the means of doing their duty. They should depend upon their own activity, energy, and forethought to carry on the administration. When an unforeseen necessity aeries impressment is justified; but if negligence and supineness have occasioned the necessity for a resort to this method the officer is blameworthy.
Some of these letters complain in strong terms of the action of the military authorities in the management of the railroads and steamboats in Mississippi and Alabama. They charge that they have mingled private and personal interests with matters of public concern and that preferences have been given to individuals in conducting their commerce by the interposition of official influence. These naturally awaken suspicion of corruption and infidelity. This Department has no authority to regulate commerce on the highways or agencies of commerce. Whenever a necessity exists it claims that Government supplies and the transfer of troops shall have a preference over other demands for transportation, but no officer is justified in making any use of this control to advance any personal or private interest.
The Department is mortified at the apparent discredit in which the Quartermaster's and Subsistence Departments seem to have fallen among the people in the neighborhood of the railroads from Mobile to Vicksburg. It is the earnest with of the Department that fidelity, exactness, and personal honor should appear in all the acts of public administration by officers of the Army. Last summer, upon some seizure that to place in Mississippi, the property of regular dealers was released, while that fraudulently marked and that belonging to speculators was retained. But the Department does not desire impressment as a means of supply to be used at all except under the condition before stated. It claims no power to control trade, and in the permissions that have been issued to individuals it has not designed to discriminate in their favor. The principle of its interference with private property of any kind, whether railroads, steamboats, or supplies, has been explained.